We all recognize that familiar picture before the reading of the parsha of the “Tochacha”. The “Ba’al Kore” shifts into high gear, lowers the volume of his voice, until he reaches the conclusion of his speed reading rendition of this “not so nice” part of the parsha. This custom was originally practiced so that the curses won’t G-d forbid fall upon the listeners. Today, though, there may be something else behind this custom – something quite dangerous and unfortunately very characteristic of Jews.
And what is that? Jews simply don’t want to think about unpleasant things! There is a tendency to think that if one looks away, the problem will go away. This allows people to continue to live in their illusions.
This is why the most popular expression in Israel is “Yiyeh Tov” – everything will be O.K. But those who say with such ease, “everything will be O.K.”, simply do not grasp a most basic tenet of Judaism: The world is not “hefker”. Judaism actually believes in such concepts as reward and punishment. The refusal to come to grips with this concept has caused many Jews to even doubt the existence of G-d throughout the years. When reflecting upon shocking tragedies in history, they wonder: How could G-d have been so cruel? This crisis in “emunah” reached its peak after the Holocaust, where so many Holocaust survivors stopped being observant Jews, saying that if something like this can happen, then G-d forbid, there is no G-d.
But if one takes a closer and objective look into the matter, without letting his emotions get the best of him, he should arrive at exactly the opposite conclusion! There is no greater proof of the existence of G-d than the fact that every one of His curses, warnings and chastisements in relation to the Jewish People which are conveyed in the Torah have been fully realized. It serves as proof to G-d’s awesome and precise supervision. It is evidence of His ability to fulfill His promises and threats.
Indeed, the sages tell us, “Anyone who says that G-d forgets, let his life be forgotten.” (Baba Kama 50). How does this jibe with the fact that Hashem is merciful and slow to anger? There is no contradiction. Of course Hashem is slow to anger – but he does not forget! He waits, sometimes for long periods of time, and takes into account all kinds of circumstances that may be. But eventually, if G-d forbid we do not do “tsheuva”, the curses of the “tochacha” will befall us. Have we not already witnessed the destruction of our Temples and the holocausts that accompanied it before the most recent Holocaust in Europe?
In these times this message is a vital one, for Rabbi Meir Kahane (may G-d avenge his blood) warned and urged world Jewry of the need to do “tsheuva” – to trust in Hashem, not to fear the gentile, and to sanctify G-d’s Name. When Rabbi Kahane said, “there is no time”, and if we do not do what G-d wants, then we will suffer greatly from the labor pains of “Giula Bi-eta” (The slow, painful redemption), there were always those who mocked him as a “prophet of doom”. They claimed that there IS time, and one should not be so pessimistic. This need to delude oneself is nothing new,as our prophets heard much of the same: “You say, because I am innocent, surely His anger has turned from me. Behold, I will punish you because you say, ‘I have not sinned’.” (Jeremiah, 2:35) And, “Behold the House of Israel say: the vision that you prophesied of is for much later days…(Ezekiel 12:27) These same prophets, unlike the Jewish leaders of today, warned and reproofed the nation, and were willing to sit in jail for it. This, after all, was their mission in life. Did Jeremiah back down after King Tzedkiyahu jailed him and almost killed him for his prophecies? Of course not.
In our parsha the Torah spills forth the awesome fury and the curses that Hashem has in store for us, without holding back a single detail. Not only does the Torah mention the possibility of tragedy, but it goes out of its way to expand upon it much more than it expands upon the blessings. What graphic and brutal scenarios are given: Sickness, breaking down of the social and economic fiber, exile, etc. For when it comes to choice between good and evil, or between truth and falsehood, the Torah pulls no punches, making it perfectly clear: If we will be good, numerous blessings will be bestowed upon us, and if we will do evil, there will be great tragedy. In these days before redemption, we must not evade this subject simply because it is uncomfortable to deal with. For years, we have unfortunately been walking in blindness and lack of faith, headed for tragedy, towards the actualization of the bitter prophecies, G-d forbid. We must say the truth clearly without trying to smooth things over. Only in such a way will the people be moved and shocked into action.
During this month of “tsheuva”, we must not forget about this national “tsheuva” which Hashem demands of us.